Tag: Documentary

2010, Movies

Casino Jack and the United States of Money (2010, Alex Gibney)

This is an episodic yet frenetic documentary about Jack Abramoff and his lobbying scandal. I can’t say I loved the style of the film, which was a little over-reliant on pop culture cues, but the film takes a serious issue and makes it entertaining, which is something that should be commended.

2014, Movies

The Case Against 8 (2014, Ben Cotner, Ryan White)

So any pretense to “objectivity” for a message movie “documentary” like this is thrown out the window. But if you believe there is a “both sides” to marriage equality you are likely not going to watch this documentary about the law suit to overturn California’s infamous Proposition 8, nor will you accept this film, which …

2018, Movies

Screwball (2018, Billy Corben)

If I could describe this documentary about Biogenesis and Alex Rodriguez in one word, it would be “glib.” This is one of the glibbest documentaries I’ve ever seen. On the one hand, that makes for a pretty funny movie. On the other hand, the style is very over the top and the filmmakers appear to …

2018, TV

Wild Wild Country (2018)

This is a crazy story about a cult, but not necessarily the kind of cult you might expect (i.e. not a death cult). Perhaps the most remarkable thing about it is how much film there is of the cult.  But the film is problematic; to paraphrase one critic, it’s incredible that at over six hours …

2018, Movies

Evil Genius: The True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist (2018, Barbara Schroeder)

This is a documentary miniseries about an absolutely bonkers crime, which shouldn’t be called America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist, but rather American’s Craziest Bank Heist, or America’s Worst Bank Heist. If you are interested in true crime, I would strongly recommend watching this, both for how it tells the story and how this particularly story – …

2018, Movies

McQueen (2018, Ian Bonhôte, Peter Ettedgui)

This is a pretty conventional chronology + historical footage + talking heads style documentary about someone who may have been, in my ignorant opinion, one of the most interesting fashion designers in history. I know nothing about fashion, and I really don’t care about it. It was only in adulthood that I discovered that there …

2009, Movies

Carcasses (2009, Denis Côté)

Carcasses is part of that trend in Canadian independent film in the early years of the 20th century to mix documentary style with fictional or plots, sometimes with people playing themselves. (I say Canadian trend because most of the films I have seen that do this are Canadian films from this time, or thereabouts.  I …

2012, Movies

Can’t Stand Losing You: Surviving the Police (2012, Andy Grieve, Lauren Lazin)

This is a fascinating and compelling documentary about guitarist Andy Summers’ life, focusing mostly on his time in The Police.

2012, Movies

Call Me Kuchu (2012, Katherine Fairfax Wright, Malika Zouhali-Worrall)

This is an absolutely devastating documentary about the situation for LGBTQ people in Uganda and the fight to make homosexuality legal again (as it wasn’t illegal until 1984 for me and 2000 for women). SPOILERS (though that’s obviously a relatively silly thing to say for a documentary about something you can just google)

2016, Movies

Cameraperson (2016, Kirsten Johnson)

When we’re watching movies, I think most of us never really think about the shots and scenes that got left “on the cutting room floor.” Unless we’re absolutely obsessed with a particular movie or filmmaker, most people don’t buy or watch the outtakes of most movies. Most of us accept the finished film as is, …

2010, Movies

Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff (2010, Craig McCall)

Cameraman is a fascinating but idiosyncratic look at one of the first technicolor cameramen in film, the first person to be awarded a lifetime achievement Oscar for cinematography.

2013, Movies

Buying Sex (2013, Teresa MacInnes, Kent Nason)

This documentary about prostitution in Canada is a little brief, a little low-budget, and a little too reliant on talking heads, but overall it is extremely nuanced and well worth your time if you are interested in laws and policies about prostitution, or about gender equality.

2017, Music

Blurred Lines: Inside the Art World (2017, Barry Avrich)

This is an engaging, thought-provoking documentary about the state of the art world in the 21st century (especially post Great Recession) that is perhaps a little too hyper-stylized for its own good.

2002, Movies

Ônibus 174 (2002, José Padilha, Felipe Lacerda)

Bus 174 is a low-budget, overlong documentary about a bizarre hostage-taking incident in Brazil that was watched by the country on the news. The story itself is compelling in many ways but the actual film about the incident is kind of a mess. We might call it “completist” as it’s a 2.5 hour movie about …

2009, Movies

Burma VJ: Reporting from a Closed Country (2009, Anders Ostergaard)

Burma VJ is one of those journalism-as-documentary films that is out of date pretty quickly after it is made – the military regime that is depicted in this film has fallen and a new, less repressive and supposedly democratic regime has taken its place. But just because things have happened since this film was made, …

2017, TV

The Keepers (2017, Ryan White)

The Keepers is a fascinating, moving, infuriating and ultimately frustrating true crime documentary mini series both about who killed a nun in 1969 but, also, on a larger level, the moral corruption of the Catholic Church and the government authorities who have protected the Church or at least ignored complaints against it. HUGE SPOILERS but …

2017, TV

The Problem with Apu (2017, Michael Melamedoff)

The Problem with Apu is a brief, made-for-TV documentary about how the only major American (east) Indian character on TV for a very long time was a stereotype voiced by a white guy. As a white guy myself, of course I never had any problems with Apu. Fortunately we now live in an age where …

2017, TV

Five Came Back (2017)

Five Came Back is an affecting and interesting mini-series about five major Hollywood directors who helped the US propaganda efforts in World War II. Each of the five directors is paired with a modern director/admirer who helps tell the story. That conceit is a neat one which helps distinguish this documentary from the numerous others …

2017, Hockey, Movies, Sports

The NHL: 100 Years (2017)

This, the official documentary history of the NHL, is an adequate history of the NHL if you don’t watch hockey and didn’t grow up watching hockey OR you like having the old hockey myths repeated to you by different people than the people who usually told you these myths. As an actual history of the …

2016, Movies

Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary (2016, John Scheinfeld)

This is a prestige documentary about John Coltrane featuring Denzel Washington of all people reading Coltrane’s own words, as well as a collection of interviews with Coltrane’s children (and step-daughter), critics, historians, biographers, fellow and later musicians and Bill Clinton. But if you are at all a fan of the man’s work, and you have …

1999, Movies, Music

Buena Vista Social Club (1999, Wim Wenders)

I have had a copy of the album for over a decade and so I must say that (much of) the music featured in this film is quite familiar. But I had long erroneously thought that the album and the film were more closely related and so I found myself quite confused for a good …

2009, Movies

Budrus (2009, Julia Bach)

This should be an inspiring documentary a village banding together to stop an oppressive foreign government from building a wall through their land. I say “should” because between when this film was released and when I watched it, 8 years later, the Israeli government did indeed succeed in building the wall around Budrus, though maybe …

2012, Movies

Brooklyn Castle (2012, Katie Dellamaggiore)

Brooklyn Castle is a film about a year in the of a particularly successful junior high school chess team. The film follows a few of these students of different ages as they compete in chess tournaments. At first glance, it feels like one of the innumerable “kids competing” documentaries that spread up in the wake …

2017, TV

The Vietnam War (2017, Ken Burns, Lynn Novick)

This mammoth, 17+ hour documentary about The United States’ war in Vietnam is not perfect; it is a flawed film in at least two ways. But it is essential viewing for anyone alive today who hopes to understand the United States, its role in the world and its continued (seemingly endless) foreign policy mistakes, which …

2017, Movies

TIFF 2017: One of Us (2017, Heidi Ewing, Rachel Grady)

I have seen a few Ewing-Grady documentaries so far and I have always found they tackle fascinating subjects but I have never loved the way in which they tackle them. Though I appreciate their attempts at breaking outside of documentary norms and customs (to a degree) I also sometimes find their attempts to do so …

2017, Daily Log, Personal

TIFF 2017: Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood (2017, Matt Trynauer)

This is a very conventional documentary about a man who claims to have been a pimp and a prostitute in Hollywood for 3-4 decades.